Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Book Review: After Party by Daryl Gregory

Pros: complicated & diverse characters, interesting plot

Cons: some far fetched action

Several years ago Lyda was part of a scientific company looking for a drug to cure schizophrenia.  But on the night of their success, the team was drugged, and the resultant overdose left one of them dead and the others seeing god.  Now in a mental hospital for delusions, Lyda encounters a young woman who’s symptoms resemble those of the drug her team created, NME 110, numenous.  In order to stop the drug from spreading in this new world where designer drugs can be printed onto paper and drug parties are de rigueur, Lyda gets herself released to hunt down the remaining members of the team and find out who’s behind it.

Be prepared to reread sections of this book in order to figure out what’s going on.  The author cleverly leaves out information that forces you - when you finally realize what’s missing - to reevaluate what’s happening.  The first one of these comes at the end of chapter one.

One aspect of the plot was easy to figure out, but other aspects kept me guessing until the very end.

I loved the diversity of the characters and how they each deal with their own… issues.  Most of the main characters have a mental problem of some sort, and these get exacerbated by the use - and abuse - of drugs.  Lyda, a middle aged black lesbian, is the point of view character for the majority of the book, and has a guardian angel thanks to NME 110.  As an atheist and scientist she knows the angel is part of her own psyche, but has to constantly remind herself that it’s not real.  Ollie is an ex-intelligence officer, whose abuse of drugs made her paranoid.  To counter those effects she must stay on different drugs, ones that dull her senses making it difficult for her to see as well as think analytically.  I loved Sasha as a character who overcomes the challenges she faces - both physical and mental - using technology.

With the exception of Sasha, who only comes in towards the end, and perhaps Dr. Gloria, the characters weren’t particularly likeable.  They were people dealing with difficult circumstances in realistic ways.  Lyda is often angry and demanding, not willing to listen to her conscience if it gets in the way of what she feels she needs to do.  At the same time, I didn’t dislike anyone, though Rovil is a bit irritating in how much of a pushover he is when faced with Lyda’s demands.

While I enjoyed watching Lyda get around her medical implant and deal with the Millies, I didn’t believe how things worked out with her getting into the US.  It seemed far fetched and over the top.  Though, I’m left wondering if Lyda was meant to be an unreliable narrator, and if so, whether her version of events is wilder than what actually happened.  I’ve got an example of why I think this might be the case in the spoiler section below.

This is an interesting book that looks into drug use, mental disorders, extreme belief systems and more.

*** Spoilers ***

The reason I suspect Lyda is an unreliable narrator is because there are major discrepancies between her description of what happened the night of the overdose and Rovil’s.  Rovil states that they all drank directly from the bottle and worried about how much of the drug would be lost due to the bubbling over of the champagne.  Lyda meanwhile pointed states that the bottle was open when Mikala arrived and that she poured it into glasses.  Psychology is a huge aspect of this book with regards to memory, hallucinations and free will.

No comments: